COLLEGE PARK -- The Cinderellas of this year's National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament woke up yesterday with sleep, not stars, in their eyes.
It's not that the University of Richmond shrugged off its 73-69 upset of second-seeded Syracuse late Thursday night at Cole Field House. Or that the 15th-seeded Spiders didn't understand the magnitude of their victory.
But this isn't the first time the glass slipper has fit one of Dick Tarrant's teams. Or the second. Or the third. "A win like this will give us visibility, and the visibility will help our credibility," Tarrant said yesterday. "We might even get a national TV game. Ha, ha, ha."
Don't laugh, but Richmond (22-8) will be on national television today at 12:15 p.m., when the Spiders take on Temple (22-9) in the first of two second-round games of the NCAA East Regional. North Carolina State (20-10) will play Oklahoma State (23-7) in the second game.
Richmond's upset of the Orangemen was one of the biggest in the history of the tournament, and it marked the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams six years ago that a 15th seed had won. Not that Tarrant thought his Spiders should have been seeded so low.
"I was surprised and mildly disappointed that we were the only 15 seed aside from the play-ins," he said. "Apparently, the committee didn't remember that we beat Auburn or Indiana."
In 1984, the Spiders were seeded 14th when they beat an Auburn team that had Charles Barkley and Chuck Person. Four years later, again as a 14th seed, Richmond upset Georgia Tech and then knocked off Indiana, the defending national champions.
Tarrant still considers the victory over the Hoosiers the highlight. "We beat the whole mystique," he said. "There was a best-selling book ("Season on the Brink") about the program. There was the movie "Hoosiers" out that year. It was top shelf."
And there was also Bob Knight, who will never be confused with Jim Boeheim. Syracuse, which won the Big East regular-season championship, lost to Villanova in the conference tournament and then to Richmond. It was the the Orangemen's earliest departure from the NCAA tournament since 1978.
The Spiders ran their patient, halfcourt offense to near perfection in the first half, making 16 of 26 shots and building an eight-point lead. Leading by 10, Richmond withstood a late Syracuse rally. After missing two straight one-and-ones, they hit three free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal the victory.
"They turned that team inside-out last night, and they can do the same thing to us," said Temple coach John Chaney, whose Owls advanced with an impressive 80-63 victory over Purdue.
Chaney doesn't think Richmond should be labeled the Cinderella team anymore, certainly not today. A top-ranked Temple team ended the Spiders' march three years ago with a 69-47 whacking at the Meadowlands, but Richmond returned the favor in 1989 with a 70-56 victory in the National Invitation Tournament.
"The only thing I remember about Richmond is that they kicked our butts the last time we played," Chaney said. "If you study Tarrant's history, he's not a Cinderella by any means. I don't care if he's not a marquee name. He's not a David; he's a Goliath."
Tarrant's players are the ones carrying the slingshots -- and making the jump shots. A year ago in Atlanta, the Spiders were overmatched by Duke's aura and smothered by its defense, losing 81-46. But the players learned from that defeat, and they knew Syracuse wouldn't be as tough, especially in terms of getting their shots.
"It really destroyed us," sophomore center Kenny Wood said of last year's game against the Blue Devils.
But this year Richmond did knock off one of college basketball's big teams. A little bit tired, and well past midnight, these Cinderellas will dance right into the second round.